Interviews conducted by Carey Schafer, Web Content Developer, USF College of Marine Science
One Graduate Student’s Perspective – Kiersten Monahan
Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: It’s now been over four months since the pandemic largely disrupted our lives. How has your work been impacted?
A: If the pandemic never hit, I would be flying off to French Guiana and embarking on the R/V F.G. Walton Smith for a month of sampling the Amazon mudbanks along the northeastern coast of South America. For the health and safety of the researchers and crew involved in this project, the cruise was postponed until next summer. As a graduate student, a whole year without samples that are vital to your research can significantly affect progress towards completing your degree.
Q: Long term, what impacts do you see this pandemic having on the field of marine science or academia as a whole?
A: If remote learning is the new reality for the foreseeable future, there is the possibility that enrollment could decline, as students may begin to feel that this new form of education is not worth the cost of tuition. Particularly in the field of marine science where in-person labs and field trips are an important part of the learning experience.
Q: There are certainly a lot of negatives associated with the disruption to our regular schedules. Have you found anything positive or unexpected that has come along with this change?
A: One of the benefits of remote learning and video conferences is that I have been able to quarantine with my family in New York, 1200 miles from USF. Quarantining has also forced me to find entertainment in new places. I took up knitting as a hobby, spent a lot of time baking, started a vegetable garden, and finished a few puzzles. Basically, I’m coming out of this pandemic as a 90-year-old woman. I credit these activities for maintaining my mental health and relieving stress, which will still be useful long after the pandemic has passed.
Q: There is a distinct possibility remote teaching will continue for the entirety of the fall semester. In your opinion, what aspects of marine science education are effective in a remote format and what are better taught in-person?
A: When learning any field of science, particularly at the graduate level, you benefit from in-depth discussions and hands-on experiences. I think being present in the classroom, feeling involved, and contributing to the conversation or activity is key. On the other hand, with remote learning, lectures can be pre-recorded or recorded during class time. These recordings can give students the convenience and flexibility to listen on their own time, pause the video to take notes, even go back and revisit a subject they may not have understood the first time.
Q: Moving forward, do you think the USF College of Marine Science or academia as a whole will be more willing to embrace a hybrid-type approach when it comes to working and learning?
A: While the transition to online learning and working remotely was abrupt and messy, I think COVID-19 has highlighted some of the benefits of today’s technological world. COVID-19 may end up lingering for a long time. A hybrid approach is a logical way to slowly return to normal while allowing those who don’t feel safe to stay home.
Q: What shortcomings within academia, if any, has this pandemic brought to light and how could we work to fix those?
A: The move to remote classrooms and online exams was a learning curve for both students and professors. While faculty and administrators were very accommodating of technological issues, the switch may have gone smoother if we were prepared or took advantage of these resources before they became a requirement.